The traditional paradigm of teaching is under pressure. Many proposals to professionalize teaching are common today. But many people avoid the dialoque about a new paradigm. There is a need to translate new insights about cognitive science related to how students learn. In this post I try to apply some of those insights to the art of teaching.
Teachers will always need to use their knowledge of students and content to create a learning experience. However, I believe the art of teaching should also be informed by an understanding of the learning sciences so that teachers can align their decisions with our profession’s best understanding of how students learn. Unfortunately, misconceptions and confusion about learning is common in our educational system. But also a big part of the teachers don’t show responsibility towards this part of teaching. They are lacking to work evidence informed. So let’s clear away the myths and focus on well-established cognitive principles and their implications for the learning experience:
Students learn new ideas by relating them to what they already know, and then transferring them into their long-term memory – this means that teachers should provide students with (or make sure that students have) the background knowledge needed for understanding new content. Students without adequate background knowledge, or who are not given enough instructional guidance, can be quickly overwhelmed or disconnected.
Students remember information better when they are given many opportunities to practice retrieving it from their long-term memories and think about its meaning – To help students focus on the meaning of content, it can be helpful to assign them tasks requiring explanation (cause and effect) or to have them impose meaning on content. Repeated, deliberate, meaningful practice with content can support student learning and make it easier for students to remember content in the future. This enables them to tackle complex challenges.
Problem-solving and critical-thinking skills are developed through feedback and depend heavily upon background knowledge – A carefully sequenced curriculum can build student knowledge over the course of a certained period, enabling students to solve complex problems. Teachers can also help develop these skills by providing feedback that is specific, clear, and focused on the task and on improvement rather than on the student performance.
For students to transfer their abilities to new situations, they need to deeply understand both the problem’s structure and context – The more knowledge that students have about a specific problem, the easier it will be for them to recognize the important aspects of that problem and how to solve it. This is in strong contrast to the common desire among teachers to teach so-called thinking skills that can be applied in any situation. The reality is that you can think critically about a subject only to the extent that you are knowledgeable about that subject.
Lets hope this will be common strategies for you and empowers you to focus on evidence informed practice even more on the future to make learning awesome and significant for your students.